Sisterhood Blog

When Discussing Rape, Notions of Sisterhood Dissipate

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

We mentioned Tuesday the disturbing news of a British survey that showed that women were more likely than their male counterparts to blame rape victims for being raped.

As someone who writes about reproductive rights and gets frustrated with the frequently encountered “abortion for me, but not for thee” syndrome, this all sounds very familiar. Some women think: I’m a good girl; she’s a slut. I took precautions; she was careless. We blame each other even when, as Amanda Marcotte points out sheer bad luck is the primary determining factor which leads women to end up in the path of a rapist, with an unintended pregnancy, or as a victim of harassment.

This kind of statistic leads me to think about the title of this blog, and the Jewish women’s organizations it’s named after. “Sisterhood” presumes that women, just by virtue of being ourselves, can find value in socializing and working together. The truth is I’ve been feeling a bit of soft nostalgia for the principles behind an old-school sisterhood version of feminism, the kind that we third-wave, ironic young feminists sometimes distance ourselves from.

That idea of sisterhood, of a universal link between all women, may have been traditionally flawed in practice because its adherents put the needs of some of those (white, upper-class, heterosexual) women ahead of others (everyone else). But the concept that all of our differences ought to melt away when we’re facing these dire problems is a good one, as is the idea of a renewed emphasis on empathy and support. Just as virulent antisemitism doesn’t discriminate between observant and secular Jews, incidents of rape, violence against women, and misogyny do affect us all. And so does a curbing of the reproductive rights of low-income women — as represented by the Hyde and Stupak amendments.

No rights for one, no rights for all, we should say. But too often we let battles that don’t affect us personally slide to the back burner. Patriarchy wants us to turn against each other, and sometimes we’re it’s biggest helpers.

Feminists may dismiss the idea of a giant sisterhood or the notion “we’re all in it together” because it sounds too hippy-dippy, earth-mothery or gender-essentialist — and it doesn’t take into account important differences in the way class, race, culture and religion inform feminist goals. Still, the study above does indicate that there may be real value in promoting some modified vision of sisterhood and a connection between all women (including those who identify as women), because clearly we don’t imagine ourselves in each other’s shoes right now. Once we do, we may be more effective at changing the law and society for the better.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sexual Assault, Rape, Pregnancy, Abortion, Sisterhood

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
esthermiriam Wed. Feb 17, 2010

Some of us 2nd wave veterans have been wondering how long this blog was going to tolerate attacks on women *here.*

If this were a place where women shared among ourselves, presumably as intended, there could be opportunities to explore the question you raise. Men who chose to listen and speak up civilly... well, OK -- but The Sisterhood has often seemed to be mistaken for the Men's Club when the topic was one that right-wing types wanted to control.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.